5 Second Base Busts for 2024 Fantasy Baseball

The Second Basemen you should be fading this draft season.

Matt McLain. Nico Hoerner. Ha-Seong Kim. Bryson Stott. Zack Gelof. Nolan Gorman. With the exception of maybe Hoerner, these players were nowhere near your draft boards last season, and yet they all made an impact.

With all these new names, the Second Base position is deeper than it’s been in a long time. Throw in a few bounce-back candidates like Andrés Giménez and Brandon Lowe and you suddenly have an abundance of options.

One thing about Second Base: you’ll see a lot of players toward the middle with similar profiles: guys with 15-homer power that started running wild with last year’s rule changes. They won’t help much in batting average and their counting stats are so-so, but if they continue to run they’ll be valuable. As you get lower in the ranks you’ll find more single-category players — like Luis Arraez for batting average or Gorman and Lowe for home runs — so you might just (second) base your selection on need in the later rounds.

That said, there are a handful of players worth fading, so here are 5 potential busts for the upcoming season.



Ha-Seong Kim

2023 stats (626 PA): .260 AVG, 84 R, 17 HR, 60 RBI, 38 SB

Kim was a rare bright spot for the Padres last year and seemingly came out of nowhere to steal 38 bags and hit 17 home runs, after only 12 steals and 11 round-trippers the year before. The steals seemed to cascade as the year went on, with 16 attempts in the first half and 31 in the second, which might be the case of a player adjusting to the new pickoff rules. Nevertheless, Kim had a bona fide breakout and finished 7th among qualifying second basemen last year.

It seems like a lot of experts are fading Kim this season, and looking deeper into his profile they have a good reason. Though he does make solid contact and appears to have good decision-making skills at the plate — he took 75 walks — there are a few holes in Kim’s game.
Second Base is not exactly a position known for power-hitting, but Ha-Seong only had 18 barrels the entire season — which matched his total in 2022 despite hitting 6 more home runs. He only finished in the 3% range for hard-hit balls and his average exit velocity was 7th percentile. And while he’s fast, his 79th-percentile sprint speed is not exactly in league with the preeminent base stealers like Bobby Witt Jr. or Elly De La Cruz. And his success rate wasn’t sterling, as only 5 players in all of MLB were CAUGHT stealing more often, so he may get the green light a little less under new manager Mike Shildt.


Kim’s advanced stats were not as good as the outcomes

Kim was rumored to be a trade candidate to the Red Sox in December, and though it appears that deal never came to fruition the rebuilding Padres might be sellers around the deadline. If that’s the case, Kim could be on the block, and the everyday leadoff hitter for the Friars may enter a less favorable situation. But even if he stays with the Padres all season, expect significant regression and keep him outside your top 100 unless you’re greatly in need of steals.




Luis Arraez

2023 stats (617 PA): .354 AVG, 71 R, 10 HR, 69 RBI, 3 SB

The talk of baseball the first half of last season, Arraez flirted with .400 for several months before a .236 August weighed him down. Still, the Marlins’ primary leadoff hitter enjoyed a career year and won the National League batting title by 17 points over Ronald Acuña Jr.

Arraez is VERY good at making contact — his 5.5% K-rate is easily the lowest in the majors, almost half that of any other player. His Whiff Rate and Sweet Spot Rate are also in the 100th percentile, as he uses a compact, inside-out swing to spray the ball to all fields. A typical Arraez AB involves the left-hander getting a pitch that’s middle-out and driving a seeing-eye grounder between third and short, or lining a blooper to shallow center field.

So why is Arraez a bust? Because, well, that’s all you’re getting. A typical Arraez box score is this: 2-5, 2 singles. Arraez scored only 71 runs on his more than 200 hits, one of the lowest hit-to-run ratios in baseball. And he only drove in 69. Arraez is also molasses on the base paths, with just a 21st-percentile sprint speed (which only makes his batting average more impressive), so he won’t give you more than a couple of ‘pitcher’s napping’ type steals.

Surprisingly, while Arraez’s strikeout rate might be at Tony Gwynn levels, his walk rate is at Carlos Baerga’s. Though his batting average was 17 points better than Acuna’s, his OBP was 23 points LOWER. So while he’s amazing at making contact, he’s swinging at bad pitches — and this got worse as the season wore on.

What about the power? Well, his 3.5% barrel rate is in the lowest 10% of the league, so he’s not exactly crushing the ball.

Another stat worth noting: though Arraez hit well over .300 against almost all pitch types, he batted only .111 against Sweepers. And it wasn’t a fluke as he hit only .143 against them the year before. Expect him to see a few more of those in 2024.

Batting Averages can fluctuate heavily from year to year, and while Arraez has a unique hit tool that should keep him in the .300 to .350 range for a long time to come, if he’s at the low end of that range you’re just not getting beyond those couple of singles per game. If you want a middle-tier Second Baseman, take a more rounded player like Bryson Stott or Andrés Giménez and leave Arraez to someone else.





Edouard Julien

2023 stats (408 PA): .263 AVG, 60 R, 16 HR, 37 RBI, 3 SB

Julien might have spent all season in the Minors if not for Jorge Polanco’s nagging hamstring, but the Twins gave the Quebec City native multiple stints with the big club and kept him on after Polanco returned to the lineup. The team has shown even more faith in Julien as he batted first or second in the lineup in more than 80% of his plate appearances — and of course, Polanco is now a Seattle Mariner.

I love Julien and think he’s destined to become a heck of a player. One thing that stands out is his judgment of the strike zone, where his Chase Rate was only 14.3%, which happens to be in the 100th percentile of the entire league. He also had a 15.7% walk rate, in the 98th percentile. Impressive for a rookie.

If he’s a bust candidate, then, what are the downsides? First, for someone who takes a walk so often, Julien strikes out a lot — more than 31% of the time. To have BOTH a high BB rate and a high K rate means one thing: he’s not getting the bat off his shoulder. A decent OBP and low average might be fine for fantasy players if Julien could run, but unlike many Second Basemen in this range, he won’t give you steals.

But the biggest issue by far is that Julien has a problem with lefties. And when I say problem…well.

vs RHP 360 .274 .497 16 36
vs LHP 48 .196 .217 0 1

And that 15.7% walk rate? It was barely over 4% against left-handed pitching, so something is massively off and he’s just not seeing the ball from that side. Long story short, unless he can make adjustments early in the season, Julien will be in a platoon. The Twins have a handful of bench players that are solid against lefties — Kyle Farmer hit .290 against them, for instance — so there could be weeks where Julien only appears in 3 or 4 games. I would wait to see how many looks the Twins give Julien against southpaws in Spring Training — and more importantly, how he fares — before considering him in my top 250.




Matt McLain

2023 stats (403 PA): .290 AVG, 65 R, 16 HR, 50 RBI, 14 SB

As a Reds fan, I hate to do this. Like, I really hate it.

And I love McLain way more than I love Julien: he reminds me of David Eckstein with power and is a perfect compliment to Elly De La Cruz in the middle of the Cincinnati infield. But McLain is currently the 6th Second Baseman coming off the board in the NFBC, right around pick 60 — and that feels too high.

Last year, the Reds seemed to bring up a top prospect every few weeks and McLain’s name was one of the first to be called. He did nothing but mash once he got to Cincy, including a 3-game stint against the Cubs where he had 9 hits. This left him with a .361 AVG and a .967 OPS over his first 15 games and fantasy owners were swooning.

McLain continued to play well as the other Reds rookies joined the party, hovering around .300 and providing strong counting stats. Mixing starts between Shortstop and Second Base, he at one point looked like he might give Corbin Carroll a run for the Rookie of the Year award.

An oblique injury in August put an end to that, however, and as he was working his way back in September he aggravated the injury to end his season (McLain has said he’s ‘full-go’ for Spring Training as of January).

So why am I down on one of my favorite players on my favorite team? Looking deeper, there are some warning signs. The 28.5% K-rate is high in a position known for contact, and it probably won’t get better given his history in the Minors (McLain hit .232 for the AA Chattanooga Lookouts in 2022, with 127 strikeouts in 452 plate appearances).

As McLain’s rookie season ground on, pitchers started putting together a script on him, burying offspeed pitches low in the zone and catching him chasing. His Contact Ability, already below average to begin with, took a dive.

As for power, McLain’s swing is suited well for Great American Ball Park, but not many other places — his 16 home runs would have been just 8 at Fenway or Comerica, for instance — so lower your expectations when the team is on the road.

The Reds also have a personnel issue, as in there are too many good players — great for David Bell, bad for fantasy managers. If McLain consistently hits, he will be one of the few Reds in the lineup every day. But the team just extended Jonathan India — who many thought would be traded — and already had a crowded infield before adding Jeimer Candelario. Any player hitting a slump might get an extended rest while hotter hands take over.

Next comes the weight of expectations. Last year was a feel-good season as the Reds electrified the league with their energy and young talent. They played with a carefree aplomb and came out of nowhere to nearly clinch a playoff spot. This season will be different, as the city has sky-high hopes for their new stars. Chances are there will be a few bumps in the road.

I hope I’m wrong here, I really do.




Thairo Estrada

2023 stats (530 PA): .271 AVG, 63bR, 14 HR, 49 RBI, 23 SB

Known for his consistency, Estrada finished last season with the same number of home runs as the previous year and had just 2 more steals. His OPS was only 9 points different, and though he played in 20 more games in 2022 than in 2023, he only had 11 more plate appearances. In his splits last year, Estrada hit .272 before the All-Star Break and .268 after. So yeah, consistent.

Then, you might ask, what’s to stop us from thinking he’ll do the same thing this year? Well, most of the peripherals aren’t pretty.

First, Estrada won’t help you in the On-Base department, as he walks less than 97% of the league. Second, his average exit velocity is a woeful 85.9 mph, worse than 96% of the league.

A benchmark I often use for players is whether their extra-base hits account for more than 10% of their plate appearances. Estrada managed just 42 XBHs in his 530 PAs last year and 38 in 541 the year before, combining for a rate of only 7.5%. And though his average was 11 points higher in 2023 than in 2022, his BABIP was .331 last year compared to .290 the year before, suggesting the improvement was counter to what should have happened.

After fracturing his hand in July and missing about a month, Estrada was naturally more reluctant to run. He had just 1 stolen base in all of August and though he attempted 7 steals in September, he was caught in 3 of them. A small sample size and understandable after such an injury, to be sure, but his 69th-percentile sprint speed suggests another 20 steals this year may be hard to come by.

As for me, I would rather reach for Ketel Marte or Zack Gelof a round or two earlier — or wait on Nolan Gorman a few rounds later — than get stuck with Estrada. But if your roster is full of risk, there’s something to be said for penciling in someone consistent at this stage. Just don’t expect anything more.

Scott McDermott

Scott lives in Virginia Beach with his wife, two daughters, and a couple of furballs. When he’s not dissecting box scores and pondering over the optimal starting lineup for the Cincinnati Reds, he covers fantasy baseball for Pitcher List. He’s also the author of the award-winning book series 'Election 2064', available on Amazon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Account / Login